Kerala opposition walks out over Cyber City deal

February 26th, 2008 - 4:46 pm ICT by admin  

Thiruvananthapuram, Feb 26 (IANS) The entire opposition Tuesday walked out of the Kerala assembly after the speaker disallowed an adjournment motion over the alleged land scam in Kochi’s Cyber City project. Seeking leave for the motion, Congress leader V.D. Satheesan lashed out at the V.S. Achuthanandan government for protecting Revenue Minister K.P. Rajendran and Industries Minister Elamaram Kareem who are alleged to be behind the land deal.

“This is one of the biggest land scams that Kerala has seen. Hindustan Machine Tools (HMT) sold 70 acres of land, which is valued at more than Rs.7 billion for a paltry Rs.910 million to a Mumbai-based real estate company. These ministers did this contrary to the opinion of the Ernakulam district collector and the law secretary,” said Satheesan.

The scam pertains to the sale of 70 acres by public sector undertaking HMT to Mumbai-based Housing Development and Infrastructure Ltd (HDIL) to build the Rs.40 billion ($1 billion) Cyber City in Kochi.

Blue Star Realtors have been contracted by HDIL to build the Cyber City.

Ever since the controversy surfaced in January this year, the opposition has alleged a scam in the sale because land was given free of cost by the state government to HMT which cannot sell the land without government approval.

Kerala Chief Minister Achuthanandan added to the controversy by staying away from the project’s foundation laying ceremony in early January and said the IT department he heads had not cleared the project.

Replying to the allegations, Rajendran said that the sale was cleared by the central government because HMT is a central public sector organisation.

“The state has no role in this because this was done by the central government. When it came to our notice, we intervened and now that the matter is in the high court, we will wait for what they have to say,” said Rajendran.

The Achuthanandan cabinet appointed an official committee headed by state Chief Secretary P.J. Thomas to look into all aspects of the project. The committee has recommended cancellation of the deal and takeover of the land.

The report has been sent to the Advocate General C.P. Sudhakara Prasad for his opinion.

Intervening in defence of the two ministers, Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, deputing for Achuthanandan, lashed out at the opposition. “In the five years when you ruled the state (2001-06) did you have the guts to take back even an inch of government land? But we have taken back huge extent of land. We wish to make it clear that the two ministers are absolutely clean,” said Balakrishnan.

Before leading the walkout, leader of the opposition Oommen Chandy said that people of Kerala wish to know why the state government did not hear the advice of the Ernakulam district collector and the law secretary who asked the state government to take back the HMT land.

“What has happened to the chief secretary’s report? Last year you threw out T.U. Kuruvilla, a cabinet minister, after the chief secretary submitted an adverse report. At that time also there was a case in the high court. Why are you differentiating now and why are you waiting for the court to decide? Only a judicial inquiry will clear the doubts of the people,” said Chandy.

Later, speaking to reporters, Chandy said that the opposition’s future course of action would depend on what Achuthanandan has to say on this issue.

Blue Star Realtors last week submitted an affidavit to the court contending that HMT had every right to sell the plot.

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